A Ronaldo double and another El Clasico goal for young Raphael Varane fired Real Madrid past Barcelona and into the Copa del Rey final.
A superb team performance saw Real Madrid emphatically beat Barcelona 1-3 at the Camp Nou, as Cristiano Ronaldo continued his knack of scoring against Los Blanco’s greatest rivals.
With the tie finely poised following the 1-1 stalemate in the first-leg at the Bernabeu, both teams came into the game knowing a big performance was needed. However, the fallibility Barcelona displayed during their 2-0 loss to AC Milan reared its ugly head once more as Ronaldo led Madrid past the Catalans and into the Copa del Rey final.
Although it was Ronaldo who stole the show, Jose Mourinho must be afforded a lot of the credit as he executed his game-plan perfectly, hassling the Blaugrana all over the pitch and hitting them on the counter attack to full effect. It was a merciless display and surely one that gave Alex Ferguson a lot to think about ahead of Madrid’s second-leg with the Premiership giants.
Despite the scoreline, Barca started as the better of the sides, and Messi went close after good work by Pedro. Barcelona were invited to play in the Real Madrid half and controlled the opening few minutes. However, this was Mourinho’s game-plan and he lulled the Barca players into a false sense of security, before implementing the perfect counter-attacking move.
Madrid won the ball deep in their own half and booted it up the line, allowing Ronaldo to find himself one-on-one with Gerard Pique. Ronaldo was simply too quick, as Pique tried to dispossess the Portuguese but ultimately gave away a blatant 12th minute penalty. Up stepped Ronaldo and history was made as he coolly slotted the penalty into the corner of the net, becoming the first player to score in six successive Clasicos.
Barcelona upped the ante following the goal, with the Camp Nou crowd screaming for a penalty following laughable appeals from Fabregas and Pedro. It was a sign of desperation from the Catalans, as they struggled to breach the Madrid rearguard of Ramos and the excellent Varane.
Messi went close just before half-time with a free-kick, but it spun narrowly wide.
Barcelona began the second-half in a positive manner and began to exert pressure on the Madrid defence. However, Mourinho’s counter-attacking game-plan came to the fore once more, as a breakaway move involving Angel Di Maria and Ronaldo resulted in the former Manchester United man notching his second goal.
The skilful Di Maria made Puyol look all of his 34 years, with a feint that left the Barcelona captain lying helpless on the Camp Nou turf. Di Maria’s shot was saved, but Ronaldo showed great composure to put away the rebound. 1-3 Real Madrid on aggregate. Barcelona were stunned and a cup exit looked inevitable.
Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane earned praise throughout the footballing world following his accomplished display in the first leg. The 19-year-old was even better on Tuesday night, as he capped a wonderful Madrid performance with a perfect header that nestled in the top corner of Jose Pinto’s net. Two goals in two games against Barcelona made excellent reading for the young Frenchman.
Jordi Alba pulled a goal back for Barcelona just before injury time, but it was too late as Madrid celebrated a historic 1-3 win at the Camp Nou.
As flares were extinguished throughout the famous stadium, it was hard not to make the reference to Barcelona’s apparent decline. Although the Blaugrana have the La Liga title wrapped, two big losses to AC Milan and Real Madrid in little over a week could be a sign that the light shone on the footballing world by the ‘greatest team of all’ could be close to burning out.
It will be interesting to see how Barcelona react when they resume league duties on Saturday and travel to the Bernabeu to do battle with Los Blancos once more.